The atmosphere, it’s electric.
The stage, it’s set.
The arena, it’s packed.
Red and white pyro EXPLODE out of the stage, the lights go nuts, and the patrons of the Star of the Desert Arena get real loud, real fast.
Once all that dies down, the lights in the arena go all the way down to black.
The arena is hushed.
We cut backstage, where Jacob Mephisto is casually strolling down the hall. It’s early in the night and he hasn’t changed into his ring gear just yet. He wears a charcoal grey pair of slacks with a black button down shirt, open at the throat.
As Mephisto rounds the corner, he spots none other than the current reigning Sin City Champion, Azraith DeMitri, just moments from heading out for his title defense. He smirks, the gesture not even coming close to reaching those pale, grey eyes of his.
Jacob Mephisto: Well, well, well. Didn’t you used to be the Azraith DeMitri? I mean, I’ve heard the stories. Hell, I’ve seen the footage.
Azraith stops in his tracks. He sets his jaw a moment before nodding.
Azraith DeMitri: Yeah…uhh,hm. That’d be me, yes.
Mephisto walks a slow circle around the champion, his eyes ever so briefly flitting to the championship belt. He is sure to keep a wide berth from Azraith as he moves.
Jacob Mephisto: But, in person? I thought you’d be… bigger.
Azraith is clearly the bigger of the two men, though not by much, but Mephisto presses on.
Jacob Mephisto: Then again, the monsters I’ve slain have been, well, monstrous. But, still, even if you’re not the sadistic madman you once were, it’s nice to see you passing the torch. That daughter of yours must be a chip off the old block, eh?
Azraith’s eyes look to the ground a moment, jaw clenched before he forces a big, fake grin, looking back up to stare holes into Mephisto.
Azraith DeMitri: Yes, person I just met twenty seconds ago, I’m incredibly proud of my daughter for deciding to make a name for herself here, as anyone would be. “Passing the torch…”, hmm…I’m going to do you an incredible favor and assume everything coming out of your mouth has nothing but positive, glowing intent since I’m about a minute away from going out to the ring and defending my championship. You called me a…what was it? A “sadistic madman”?
Mephisto’s eyes lit up slightly as he nodded, smiling
Jacob Mephisto: I believe that’s what I said, yes.
Azraith nods quickly, and with a speed that is unusual for a man of his size he cleanly closes the circling distance between himself and Jacob, placing a casual hand on the man’s shoulder.
Azraith DeMitri: I…appreciate the words. Truly, it’s been so long since I’ve been able to talk to a fan…but it’s been a long time since anyone’s called me anything like that. If you don’t mind me asking…what exactly are you getting at here?
Mephisto freezes in place as Azraith places his hand on his shoulder. He tenses for a fraction of a second, his eyes widening in surprise for even a breath shorter. The smile returns to his face as he gently steps back out of reach with the movement of a man backing away from a predator.
Jacob Mephisto: Oh, I was a fan, sure. And I’m just observing a man who used to be so much… more. And, you used to be a sadistic madman. Now, well, I guess time catches up with everyone eventually. But, either way, it sounds like you’ve got that precious title to defend. Still got that extra something inside? Prove it.
With that, Mephisto takes the bright red apple in his hand, takes a bite, and lightly tosses it to Azraith. The latter catches it without thinking, merely an instinct reaction as Mephisto slinks off down the hall.
As the bell rings and his music plays, Azraith slowly paces the ring. He’s looking down at his hands and with heavy, labored breaths he’s clenching them tight. Before anyone can stop him, Az barrels past the ref and GORES Elgin into the far corner!
The crowd doesn’t know how to react at first as Azraith gets up and violently starts stomping into Elgin’s chest and midsection while he’s almost unconsciously slumped in the corner. Finally, after a few seconds of it, the crowd realizes what’s happening. Az says nothing as he pulls Elgin back up to his feet, just to throw him into the opposite corner and GORE him again!
Again, Azraith pulls Elgin back up and drags his lifeless body to the middle of the ring. Elgin’s legs are wobbly and his eyes are glassy as Azraith circles him for several moments before launching himself into and off the ropes, flooring Elgin once again with a vicious lariat to the back of his skull!
Azraith’s eyes have an eerie, almost dissociative calm to them as he drags the massive Elgin to his feet, and in one swift motion plants a vicious knee in his gut to double him over. Azraith looks out into the crowd, fluttering between blank apathy and a senseless, sneering rage.
Before even he knows it, Azraith has Elgin’s arms hooked and he’s beginning to lift him up for an Extinction. As he has him upon his shoulder, Azraith finally hears the ref’s that have made their way down to the ring.
Ref: PUT HIM DOWN AZRAITH! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!
In an instant, Az’s eyes look clear, and instantly he drops Elgin down to the mat and backs off into a corner. Elgin is bleeding from the corners of his mouth as he’s pulled to safety by the referees. The crowd is still booing as Azraith drops down and rolls out of the ring, with what can only be called confusion on his face as he stagers to the back.
:: Scene opens with various flags appearing on the screen representing the United States, Mexico and Japan.:
Narrator: The sport of professional wrestling has spawned legends from all around the globe. Many would travel outside of their homeland looking to prove themselves. Most of them would return home after a short lived learning excursion.
Only a few had what it takes to survive and thrive in a combat sport that mentally and physically breaks you inside and out.
::The flags fade in montage that could also double as don’t try this at home video. Images of broken bones, moves gone wrong, and bodies going through tables, ladders and barriers flash across the screen. ::
Narrator: Some join for the challenge, others to prove their athleticism. A select few just like to fight.
It is often quoted that wrestling is about “knowing how to fall.” Truth is it’s about knowing how to get back up.
All legends start out as rookies, all paths start at the beginning. Will a new star shine or burn out? A new face journeys down a fresh path and it leads to SHOOT Project.
:: The Irish flag appears on screen with the name Fuil Wean across it then fades into the words, Arriving Soon.::
Backstage, we see the MCGA Contingent walking down the hallway–Molly resplendent, Dan Stein oiled, and Johnny Patriot wearing a red ballcap over his mask. There is a mighty set of stomps, and into the frame steps the massive shoulders and neon gear of the UNHOLY CYBER ARMY–with their friend, Nate Robideau. Power Devil and Superbeast advance on the champions, letting out a mighty bellow.
Unison: JOHNNY PATRIOT!!
Stein: Oh what the absolute shit do you want?!
Power Devil jabs a finger in Stein’s direction.
Power Devil: Silence, cur! You and your boss have unfinished business with us!!
Stein: My boss?! Listen you overgown–
Johnny holds out an arm, shaking his head.
Patriot: Daniel, hold fast. The Demonic Commie Posse has business with us? Let’s hear them out!
Superbeast: Business is putting it lightly! You prance about like peacocks wearing belts that are rightfully ours! Jackals, the both of you! Ducking us and giving title shots to desiccated remains like Good Job?! Weaklings!! Face your destiny!!
To this, Stein steps forward slightly, puffing his chest out.
Stein: Yo! Dan Stein, the Sexiest in the SHOOT Project, El Niño de Oro, DOES NOT duck anybody. So, it makes sense why you guys would think we’re ducking you. You’re a couple of NOBODIES!
Both Power Devil and Superbeast walk forward, getting into Stein and Patriot’s faces. Stein pats Patriot on the chest to duck behind him in fear.
Stein: Get away from me, nerds. You smell like phys ed!
Power Devil: NOBODIES?! Dan Stein you are lower than maggots! You will face us or you will find yourself bloodied and broken!! Don’t think for one second we would even begin to hesitate to shatter you to bits and make birdhouses with your respective ribcages!!
Superbeast: You will BLEED, you will SUFFER, if not in a match for those belts at the Pay Per View then right here, right NOW!!
At this, two arms work themselves in between the camps. One is lithe and well manicured. One is a massive swarthy club of a forearm capped with a scarred hand.
Robideau: Cyber Army, get your wits. Give us a moment, please.
The two teams step back from one another, muttering curses and insults, leaving the two more level headed members of the crews facing one another.
Robideau: Hi. Look, the guys want a shot at the belts. I believe that only to be fair.
Molly: Yeah, I think we can work something out. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum over there-
Superbeast and Power Devil: HEY!
Molly shakes her head.
Molly: I meant my guys. I know that RISE, it was closer than they’d like to admit. As a matter of fact, they know that your guys are the best-of-the-best of the challengers right now, and since my husband wants to keep calling himself the Golden Boy at 33 years old, I think we can set something up. But, as the manager (Stein goes to say something, but Molly puts her hand up to stop him from speaking) of the current Tag Team Champions, I do wish to reserve the rights for a rematch, should things not go our way.
At this, Superbeast pops up from the distance.
Superbeast: A rematch?! For the oiled jackdaw who pretends to be worthy of the belt?! I outright–
Nate turns, holding a hand up.
Robideau: Superbeast! Superbeast. Please.
Power Devil claps Superbeast on the shoulder, and they continue to pace and mutter.
Robideau: That seems pretty standard. My compatriots have requested an…interesting stipulation.
Molly crosses her arms, raising a brow.
Molly: Define ‘interesting’.
Robideau: Light tubes. Barbed wire. Chairs. Ball bats. A real, Japanese style deathmatch.
Dan Stein bursts into the summit, all shouts and demands.
Stein: YOU CAN’T DO THAT. NO. I WILL NOT. NEVER. NO. THESE GUYS SMELL LIKE THEY BATHE IN AN ANIME STREAMER’S BATHWATER BUT ONLY ONCE A MONTH. FUCK!
Molly again puts her hand up to hush him. Stein continues to panic.
Molly: Listen, Nate, that’s going to be a tough draw. How about this? Next week, we’ll have a competition. And whoever wins, determines the stipulation of the match at the Pay-Per-View?
Nate nods in his stoic fashion and holds up a finger before walking over to the Unholy Cyber Army, and pulling them into a quick huddle. There are whispered words, though we can hear “COWARD” and “DEATH” most clearly. With a clap on their massive shoulders, Nate walks back.
Robideau: Arm wrestling match. Superbeast versus Patriot–winner decides the stipulation for the championship matchup at the pay per view. Does that sound agreeable for all parties?
Stein steps out in front of Johnny Patriot and flexes his right arm to expose his well toned bicep.
Stein: Are you sure you don’t want me up there, Robin-dumb?
Patriot looks down at Stein’s arm and then throws up his own bicep, easily dwarfing Stein’s. Stein looks back at Patriot and sees the bicep. Slowly, Stein lowers his arm.
Stein: Not my fault you’re gigantic. What is that smell?!
Robideau: I mean, after all, it is a very American contest.
At this Johnny nods with enthusiasm
Patriot: Yes it is! Why, the verbiage on the very Declaration of Independence was decided in an arm wrestling match between John Adams and Edward Rutledge!
Stein: Yeah, I don’t thi…. You know what, sure let’s go with it. There’s nothing more American than an arm wrestling wrestling contest, and Johnny Patriot is gonna make HIS COUNTRY Proud!
Nate and Molly, facepalming, look on at the four men who descend back to childish insults about 1776 and looks and feeble minds and statures.
Molly: I guess…you’ve got a deal.
Molly sticks out her hand for a handshake. Nate grasps hers and shakes it firmly.
Robideau: Sounds like it. Superbeast, Power Devil, is this good?
Superbeast stretches his right shoulder and grins.
Superbeast: Very good.
The Cyber Army contingent walks off, Power Devil taking the time to mean mug at Stein.
Stein: Take a picture, it’ll last you longer! Better yet, take it off your mom’s dresser!
The two camps separate, the contest set, and we cut away…
The camera fades in at knee pads, and pans up as we see C.K. Butcher, ready for a tussle, and tightening the athletic tape on his wrists as he walks the hallway. The Blue Ridge mountain man is wearing red and yellow tights, which is perhaps all he could afford; he would have been better off with the torn Wranglers he came wearing. He’s shirtless, although a thick nest of chest hair could be mistaken for a miniature sweater. He’s solo, and unaccompanied by his brethren. There’s little reaction from the crowd, and that’s simple: nobody knows who he is. He passes a handful of SHOOT Project employees; some he checks out, and some he ignores before entering the Gorilla Position where he’s immediately met by his opponent for the night, Jacob Mephisto. Perhaps one of the greatest Sin City Champions stands just mere feet before Butcher, his eyes calculating, cerebral, and they don’t look away.
Mephisto doesn’t glare, nor does he attempt to intimidate. He simply takes the measure of the man standing before him with those pale grey eyes.
Butcher looks unimpressed as he steadies forward. He has a calm look of confidence across his face, but it’s easily perceived as cockiness. He’s within inches of bumping into one of the greatest competitors to step into a SHOOT wrestling ring.
C.K. Butcher: Pardon me, but you look awfully’lot like the sorry sumbitch whose innards’bout to get interrupted by a size 13 Butcher boot…
Mephisto smirks, the gesture not quite reaching his eyes.
Jacob Mephisto: Confidence. Good. You’ll need that. But, be careful, Butcher. You might just be on your way to the wrong end of the slaughterhouse.
Mephisto turns, the smirk fading to a sneer as he heads towards the entrance in preparation for their match.
Butcher snickers as he watches Mephisto exit the Gorilla Position. He follows up with a sly smile as he strokes the five inches of black chin hair that comes to a point. He then looks over at a digital clock that hangs on the wall and watches as time counts down toward the beginning of a new era…
A darkened office is cast into light from the opening of the door. Walking in, a suited figure turns on a desk lamp—The Real Deal himself, Josh Johnson. In the far, dark corner of his office, there is something neither he nor the audience expects—a shadowy figure with his hooded sweatshirt pulled low. Real Deal turns slowly, his body settling into wary readiness.
Real Deal: Hello.
The figure raises his head up and pulls his hood back, walking into the light cast from the desk lamp. He is broad across the shoulders, his hair undercut and draped to one side. His brown skin contrasts the solid gold facemask he’s wearing—a placid expression sculpted to a level of stuatue-grade detail. His dark eyes regard Real Deal, the mask blocking any expression.
Golden Mask: Mister Johnson. Thank you for making time to see me.
His voice, slightly muffled behind the mask, is soft, slightly accented, and positively chipper. We can hear a smile in his words.
Real Deal:…yeah. Making time.
He strides over to his desk and has a seat, never taking his eyes from the figure.
Golden Mask: It’s appreciated. A man of your stature and influence can still make time to meet someone face to face.
The figure walks forward, standing with his hands clasped in front of him, military still.
Golden Mask: A successful evening so far? Good matches? I certainly hope so. I’m sure you’re curious as to why I’ve come to visit you this evening.
Real Deal: Yeah, I’d appreciate you getting to the general point.
Golden Mask: Of course! You’re a very busy man, after all. Writing the next chapter of your empire! That success doesn’t come easily, I know. It’s hard work. “A shining jewel in the desert.” A mecca of combat sport. Do you feel pride, sir?
Real Deal remains silent, his eyes never leaving the figure. Not even blinking. The masked man walks slowly over to one of the large windows in the office, taking in the vibrant glow of the city.
Golden Mask: You should. This is, in many ways, your child. You’ve nurtured him through times lean and prosperous, as a good parent should. Many of us, unfortunately, were not that lucky. Many of us, unfortunately, can only look back at lost time and feel something inside of our veins that runs so hot it almost seems alien.
Real Deal: Look, I’m sure you have every good reason to wait in the shadows and talk cryptically, however–
Golden Mask: Forgive me, but I must interject. I apologize that my words seem cryptic—it is far from my intent. Let me be emphatic.
With this, he walks towards the desk. Though his body seems coiled like a jungle cat for action, his every move filled with menace, his voice never stops being soft and polite, almost customer service tier in it’s sweet tone.
Golden Mask: You’ve grown soft and fat on the lucre of success. Your empire is vast. And I merely want to encourage you to hold it tight to your chest for as long as you can, Mister Johnson. Not for any particular reason. When you look out to the desert, as soon as the city stops glowing, the world is pitch black, isn’t it?
He turns to the window that runs the length behind Josh’s desk, looking out. We can’t discern his emotion visually, but his voice drops to a somber tone.
Golden Mask: So dark that it’s hard to see that there may be those who are more than happy to watch this shining jewel shatter to dust. So dark that you don’t see all the beasts that lie in wait with the scent of your blood on their snouts. So dark that you’ll never notice until the cold hand is around your throat.
Back to cheerful, he extends a hand.
Golden Mask: Thank you for your time.
Real Deal stands and grasps it. There is no shake.
Real Deal: Of course. What’s your name?
Golden Mask: I am Avarice. One of many.
Josh nods, smiles, and begins to pump his hand in a firm, businessman’s shake.
Real Deal: Avarice. Sneak into my office again, and I’ll make sure you leave on a stretcher. Have a great evening.
Avarice chuckles softly, finishing the handshake and nodding. Softly and slowly, he exits the office, his head held high and his mask catching the light of the hallway, leaving Josh Johnson to cross his arms and furrow his brow.
We are following a box, a wooden crate to be exactly, easily bigger than a refrigerator. With steady grunts of exertion, it is being pulled forward, lashed to a lumber dolley by strong ropes. The pilot of this parcel is looking beyond her normal level of filth, dried mud on her jeans mingling with the dust of these desert surroundings. Slowly, methodically—when is she not—she comes upon three men in the distance, all holding guns of various make and laughing it up—until they catch sight of her. She doesn’t even pause when they prime the weapons with mighty metallic slaps, instead walking forward until she is a mere 30 feet from what it appears they are guarding—a doorway into the earth.
The oldest of the men steps forward, training his gun on her and peppering her with Spanish. She removes her hat and slowly wipes her soaking forehead with a threadbare bandana.
CJH: Yes sir. I expect to be able to walk myself and my parcel here through to the United States.
Stranger: You…you realize who owns these tunnels, si?
At this point the trained weapons are lowered slightly. The two other men even smirk.
CJH: I assume some man grown powerful and hardened by sin.
Stranger: Ha ha, I’ll tell him you said this next time you see him. Now.
He steps forward, closing a little of the distance between them.
Stranger: Fuck off.
At this, Charlie sighs and leans against the massive crate, running her bandanna across the back of her neck. She begins speaking with a precise recitation, but her voice remains lifeless.
CJH: “They came down like wolves on the fold. Their cohorts were gleamin’, in purple and gold. The shine on their spears just like stars on the sea, when the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.” Men with guns. You know I done known many men like yourselves. Clutching widowmakers like their own children in the dead of night. Thinkin’ scraps from a different man’s plate makes you better than folks who earn an honest dollar.
Her dead eyes flash a cold fire to the men across from her, catching the moon.
CJH: Soft in the midsection. Sniffling the drip of those expensive drugs you hoover up like a trucker man does speed so you can stay up while the world sleeps. You men…business. Business, always. That’s what this is, ain’t it? A business. Business of people. Business of drugs. Businessmen like deals. They like bets.
Stranger: I’m listening.
She removes her hat, then takes off her beaten vest, cracking her knuckles one by one in a slow sequence.
CJH: The strongest of you. Right now. None but the weapons the good Lord gave us. Purity. Combat is so pure.
At this, the men laugh.
Stranger: Chica, you fuckin’ serious?
Her face is unmoved. Stone. Dead.
CJH: Toss your slugthrower. Find out. But when my victory is claimed, I will walk down that tunnel unmolested. This is a deal, yes?
One of the younger men holds out his rifle, and his associate takes it before they back off, giving him space. There is almost the ghost of a smile on Charlie’s face before she speaks up again, walking forward, her fists clenched.
CJH: “For the Angel of Death spread her wings on the blast…”
There is a hard cut to black. When the picture restores, Charlie is hunched over, slowly moving forward. The surroundings are dirty, cramped, dimly lit by strings of shop lights hung from retaining wood planks. The tunnel she’s using is barely large enough to manage her parcel and her body—claustrophobic, really–and she appears to be in rough condition. Her hands are scraped and red. Her left eye is nearly swollen shut under the encrusted blood from a cut above her eyebrow. She is barely managing the thin streams of red drool that streak from her mouth with every grunt of exertion. In an exhausted rasp, she speaks.
CJH: “The widows of Ashur are loud in their wail, the idols are broken in the temple of Baal. The might of the gentile, unsmote by the sword, melted like snow in the glance of the Lord…”
Cut to black.